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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

More nonscents

Went today to hear the venerable Sam Keen, author of so many fine treatises on the human condition I can barely bare to pare it down to a favorite.  I first heard of Dr. Keen in the way way back, maybe through the CoEV Quarterly.  He's a philosopher, academic, poet, Eagle Scout (youngest in Delaware history!) and Johnny-come-lately trapeze artist.  Now 80, he is brilliant-sexy, about the only kind of sexy I seem to notice.  He waxed on for several hours and I filled up a moleskine with notes.  I'll be doling out gleamings from this wisdom-packed day for weeks to come.  But tonight it is late, and I've just returned from the quarterly wine-tasting/food gathering with my sweetheart's colleagues.  I surprised myself when I approached this plethora of smell memorials with some hard-core denial.  Within minutes of seeing the plates and plates of tastes and all those carefully selected french wines I was in tears. 9 gourmet cheeses I could not smell.  Elegant plates of muskmelon and nectarines drizzled with...who knows...and blueberries and rosemary; it might as well have been a plate of Red Delicious-less appple slices covered with jujubes for all the scents I could make out of it.  Wine after wine was presented with labels going on about terroir, and as far as I could tell  they could have been subtle different off-brands of weak kool-aid.  I spun into sadness and went for a walk and tried to pully my ass up from its deep crevasse pity party.

Isn't that a bit how grief is-- we put it off to the side and go back to the daily, only to be yanked by our petards each time we re-remember our loss and how it has changed the predictable?  I am making progress, truly I am. I am working hard hard hard on getting into textures. I now love salt and sugar  and chili paste and fat, which I never did before when I could actually taste food.
But I don't like it. Tonight I just wanted to taste the 47 textures and sensual pleasures of that one late summer perfectly perfumed nectarine.  Instead I need to accept it being the pleasant, in the most banal of the word, piece of fleshly texture that it is.  It'll get tolerable.  It already is, most of the time.  But when I get a new experience of the not-smelling world, it's a tiny and sharp death I want to resist.  There's a loss of common language and experience I haven't figured out how to bridge.  A guilt over not having any idea why this wine is interesting, knowing a dear friend picked it out especially to please us. A chagrined anger that everyone is having so much more out of this experience than I can.

It'll shift.  It already is starting to shift. Like my fellow anosmiacs I am  very into texture in foods now.  But I haven't transitioned out of the disappointment that this is all I'm going to get.  I look forward to that peace.

Sam Keen talked today about vowing to sit with discomfort until it resolves. Literally sit down, and look at the feeling in curiosity and compassion until it transforms.  I remember advising an angry Muslim to do the same once, and quoting him Higher Evidence on the wisdom of this exercise straight from the Prophet's mouth as written in the Koran.  It's good advice:  stop doing/craving/fuming/crying, and just sit until you figure something out.
So I am sitting, and writing too, and waiting to come to that place of serenity about that which I cannot control or change.  Waiting for the wisdom, or the acceptance that is not approval but a compassionate acknowledgement of what is, whether I like it or not.

But for the time being, each new experience of a smell memory that is now gone is a bit of a punch in the gut. What a lesson.

I hate it when I am resisting my lessons.


Bearrance said...

Jana, thanks for another insightful and deeply personal posting. Grief can come with all loss, or at least if we are conscious about it. I've always been color blind, or so I am told. I can tell red from green from yellow on the traffic signal, but cannot see about half of the numbers in those charts of colored dots that measure more subtle color perception. Since it has always been that way, I don't miss it so much. My visual acuity and hearing are another matter. Can't read a restaurant menu or a computer screen without cheap drug store reading magnifiers anymore, and my three year old is often commenting about distant trains and fire trucks that I cannot hear. I guess it is all part of the aging process, and I try to content myself with the realization that experiencing these losses means I am still alive, which in the scheme of things is the most important thing, especially with little ones who count on me. But sometimes, it just plain sucks not being able to do all I could when I was younger.

Unknown said...

As one who loves to cook and enjoys all the sensual tastes, fragrances that go along with it, I can understand the frustration of losing your sense of smell. Sharing and enjoying food with friends is easily one of our primary social avenues. And you're still able to do that - maybe just not as fully as before.

Not knowing how you lost your smell (an operation to open the nasal passage? which my mom had and was so happy to be able to breathe!)
I would say being grateful for what you do have will lessen the pain of what you don't have.
You have a wonderful gift as a writer (I love reading your posts!) and artist in addition to your passion of continued growth. You have health, love, family, friends and a full life, even without all the smells.